Search for sailor who made rare archive of world war

Robert Reeves of the Royal Naval Association in Hull, with the mystery album found on a Scarborough tip
Robert Reeves of the Royal Naval Association in Hull, with the mystery album found on a Scarborough tip
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HE sailed the world’s oceans, served his country at a time of war, and captured it all on camera.

But now a search is under way to find mystery sailor Kenneth Jackson, or his relatives, after his photograph album was found dumped on a rubbish tip.

The small red book, containing a lifetime of memories, was spotted by an eagle-eyed refuse worker in the Scarborough area and has now been handed to the Hull branch of the Royal Naval Association, whose members would like to see it either returned to its owner or stored in a museum.

And it could be that it is not just of sentimental value - many personal photographs are included - but also an important historical document.

There are a series of pictures of the formal surrender of Japanese troops, which Robert Reeves, honorary branch secretary, believes could be at Singapore. If so, it would elevate the collection beyond that of personal memoir.

On that momentous occasion, British servicemen had snapped away as Admiral Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander in South-east Asia, prepared to accept the surrender of General Seishiro Itagaki, commander of the 7th Area Army, at the Municipal Buildings on September 12, 1945.

But while many believed they were taking pictures that could be passed on through the generations, the authorities ordered all non-official photographs, and their negatives, to be handed in and destroyed. The ones that survived are therefore of value and it is likely that those belonging to Mr Jackson have never been seen before outside family circles.

“I don’t understand why somebody would throw it out unless it was a mistake or they didn’t realise what it was,” said Mr Reeves of the album, which, although now worn around the edges, was clearly compiled with a great deal of care and attention.

“I want this returned to whoever. It may have been thrown out in a house collection by someone who didn’t recognise its relevance, but I’m hoping there’s going to be a family member.

“I like doing a lot of research myself in Royal Naval matters and I feel very strongly about this.

“As I say to people, any photograph you have got of World War Two is history and it mustn’t be lost. There’s information out there and I keep saying to our members, ‘If you’ve got information for God’s sake release it before you go’.”

Little is known about Mr Jackson other than the clues he left in the album, which show that he served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, and afterwards as a steward aboard HMS Sainfoin, a landing craft carrier that gave important service both during and after the conflict.

HMS Sainfoin sailed to the Far East as part of Zipper Force under Lord Mountbatten’s flag and landed troops at Rangoon, Penang, Port Dixon, Port Swettenham, Medan and Singapore. It is thought to have repatriated troops after the war.

Neatly folded in the middle of the album is a document that would be familiar to many sailors - his “Crossing the Line” certificate - awarded to those who have crossed the Equator for the first time following a traditional ceremony, during which they have paid homage to Neptune and been dunked in water.

It is likely that Mr Jackson either lived in Scarborough or had an attachment to the area, as there is period photograph of the Grand Hotel in all its glory.

Other pictures merely hint at the life he led and his journeys to the other side of the world.

There are many from India, ranging from street scenes to icons such as the Taj Mahal and the Gate of India, and landmarks including Calcutta Station, Calcutta Bridge, and the Temple of the Tooth, alongside pictures of the famous tea-growing region of Darjeerling.

Some photographs show Singapore’s China Town, the Himalayas and naval vessels including a hospital ship and HMS Wolfe and HMS Nelson.

The stewards’ football team photograph may be from his time on HMS Sainfoin, but some other exotic locations and subjects will be known only to the photographer himself, such as a series of dramatic tropical sunsets and numerous portraits of women.

Closer to home towards the back of the album are wedding photographs and pictures in the UK of what appear to be various friends and couples, with at least one in the uniform of Airforce, Army or Navy, a reminder of the massive commitment to the war effort.

Mr Reeves said if the album was not claimed it would be offered to the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth or the Imperial War Museum in London. “It’s an important record of the war and it should not be lost,” he said.

Anyone with information about Mr Jackson or the album can call Robert Reeves on 01482 703389, or email